How to clean a microwave – eliminate grease and odors with baking soda and more

This is how to clean a microwave using natural ingredients like lemon, vinegar, and baking soda to have yours looking brand new and smelling fresh in an instant!

clean inside of microwave
(Image credit: Getty images)

Microwaves are relied-upon kitchen appliances but to ensure that yours is a pleasure to use and lasts for years to come, you need to know how to clean a microwave properly. From leftover take-out to instant oatmeal, tomato soup, and baked beans, microwaves can be messy, so you'll need to make sure that your turntable and other parts remain in tip-top condition.

Thankfully, using natural and potent kitchen cupboard staples is a hugely effective way to tackle daily grease build ups if you want to clean your microwave without using specialist, chemical and/or expensive detergents.

Because it only takes one spill to turn yours into a grimy (and smelly) mess that you wouldn't want to touch with a barge pole let alone heat food up in... Whether yours is riddled with burnt-on stains or a bad odor, use one of our failsafe methods to bring up your best microwave like new.

How to clean a microwave for magic results

'Microwaves can be easily cleaned with hot soapy water,' says Clare Edwards, home economist at Smeg UK (opens in new tab).

'Another trick is to heat up a slice of lemon in a water bath which will remove odors and keep your microwave smelling fresh. Our built-in microwaves can also be cleaned easily using the vapor clean function.'

How often should I clean my microwave?

First things first, you need to wipe your microwave down on a daily basis – if you use yours frequently – to keep on top of grime and bad smells. This will make deep cleaning your microwave, which should be done at least once a month, far easier.

Even the most trivial tasks such as knowing how long to microwave a potato can be troublesome... too long and the energy produced from inside can cause quite the explosion!

How to clean a microwave with lemon

Lemon is naturally antibacterial and a great way to clean the inside of your microwave as it's tough on dirt and smells too. It's a great natural way to clean your kitchen appliance while smelling fresh and non-chemically too.

'Joyously simply and surprisingly easy, this method empowers your combination microwave to dare we say it; clean itself.' says Jessica Thompson, senior manager, content marketing, Panasonic (opens in new tab).

While Nick Small, microwave expert at AO.com (opens in new tab) advises: 'To get rid of tough vibrant stains on the inside of the microwave, you’ll need to steam clean the inside of the appliance,'

'Pop a microwavable bowl filled with one cup of water and a whole sliced lemon into the microwave for 2-5 minutes – depending on the strength of your microwave. Then, leave the door closed for 10-15 minutes after it’s finished to give the inside a good steam.'

'If the stains are still there after you’ve wiped down the microwave, then make a thick paste of baking soda and water, and leave it on the stains for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove the paste with a scrubber or gentle toothbrush and finish by wiping it over with a damp soft cloth.'

An inside of microwave oven with glass bowl containing quartered lemon segments in water

(Image credit: Lynsey Queen of Clean)

You will need

  • A microwave suitable bowl or jug large enough to hold around half a cup (200ml) of water
  • One whole lemon
  • A clean, dry cloth

This natural spring cleaning and all-year-round microwave maintenance method will help the environment, save you money and keep your family healthy too!

1. Simply cut your lemon in half (you could also use lime or an orange if you only have these citruses to hand) and squeeze the juice from one half into 200ml of water. 

2. Place both halves of the lemon, leaving the rind on, into the water. 

3. Turn the machine on high for several minutes (five should be fine) allowing the solution to boil and make the window steamy. 

4. Let the microwave cool a little and then simply wipe down the inside with a damp, clean sponge afterward.

5. Let the microwave dry out completely.

A selection of cleaning materials including bicarbonate of soda and fresh lemons cut in half

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

How to clean a microwave with vinegar

White vinegar is a potent cleaning agent, you can use apple cider vinegar also) and you can combine it with lemon for an even more intense clean.

Fill the microwavable bowl with 200ml of water and add two tablespoons of white vinegar. Place a toothpick into the bowl, shut the door, and run on high for five minutes. When the timer goes off, don’t open the microwave right away. Leave the door shut for a couple of minutes to let the steam continue to work. The steam will help loosen caked-on bits of food and the vinegar will help eliminate any odors.

When you open the door, be careful pulling the bowl out; it will be very hot. Remove the turntable tray carefully, it will be hot as well, and wash it in the sink in soapy, warm water or put it in the dishwasher if okayed in your microwave's manufacturer leaflet. Using a damp cloth, sponge scourer or a magic eraser (available from Amazon) (opens in new tab), wipe down the inside of the microwave and watch the dirt come right off. Allow to dry with the door open.

It's worth noting that you can also follow the same advice if you're wondering how to clean an oven too! 

A female with pink rubber gloves cleaning the inside of a microwave

(Image credit: Getty images)

How to clean a microwave with washing-up liquid

'A great way to clean your microwave is to take a microwave-safe bowl and fill it with warm water,' says Diana Nappo, cooking category marketing manager, Whirlpool UK Appliances Limited (opens in new tab).

'Add some dishwashing soap (2 tbsp) and put the bowl in the microwave for one minute on high. The steam will soften the dried-on food, so you easily clean the microwave using a damp sponge to wipe off any debris, leaving your microwave squeaky clean and ready to heat up all those delicious leftovers.'

How to clean a smelly microwave

A smelly microwave isn't a pleasant one, but whether you've been heating up spicy food or managed to burn something in there, there are ways to fix it. If you've followed the above methods to clean the inside, your microwave is likely smelling better already.

But if it's just a smell you need to deal with, start by airing out your microwave by leaving the door open. Then add a small bowl of baking soda to your microwave when you shut the door. This will absorb the bad smells. For extra potency, add a few drops of lemon juice.

You could also try microwaving a small bowl of 2 tbsp white vinegar and 1 cup water for a couple of minutes. Then let the microwave air out. The vinegar will absorb the bad smells.

How to clean a microwave door

To clean the rubber seal around the door, dip your sponge in a little baking soda and rub it in then remove the residue with warm water. To tackle a really greasy microwave glass door, make a mixture of warm water and vinegar in equal parts and this should be enough. 

Cleaning with baking soda is a good idea as it's tough on grub and works well both inside and when cleaning a microwave door and its exterior. You can try using dish soap if yours isn't so bad and if you need something more hardcore, spray an all-purpose cleaner like HG microwave combi cleaner, (available from Amazon) (opens in new tab), onto a wet sponge and scrub away any residue.

Note: When cleaning a microwave's exterior, don’t spray any cleaning solution directly onto the microwave as you may risk getting cleaner in the vent holes. Instead, spray on a wet cloth or sponge and wipe all over the surface. Dry off with a clean paper towel and dust with a duster.

If yours is an on-show stainless steel microwave, our guide on cleaning stainless steel can help you to achieve sparkling results!

A female with pink rubber gloves cleaning a microwave oven door in kitchen using an unbranded spray nozzle bottle

(Image credit: Getty)

How to clean glass and microwave controls

'It's easy to clean up the everyday smudges, fingerprints, and grease that keep your microwave from looking its best.' says Nappo.

On some microwaves with touch controls, you can turn on the control lock to avoid accidentally activating buttons while you clean.

Step 2: Wipe and dry exterior
Use dish soap and water or a dedicated appliance cleaner such as Affresh® Stainless Steel Cleaning Spray from Whirlpool (opens in new tab) on a soft cloth or sponge. If you have glass controls, you can use a glass cleaner instead. Dry with a soft cloth and turn the control lock off.

How to remove stuck on food in a microwave

For any stuck on, spattered food spots you might find on the walls or ceiling of your microwave (even following the lemon and vinegar methods above) try the following:

1. Use a scourer or hard-bristled toothbrush dipped in hot, soapy water, or a little baking soda.

2. You can wash most removable pieces, like the turntable, in the dishwasher, or in a sink of soapy water. Just make sure you read the manufacturer's manual before you remove any intricate parts from inside.

Why you shouldn't use bleach to clean a microwave

Avoid using strong chemicals, such as bleach to clean your microwave. Why? Well, products like this don't mix well with food – if you don't rinse the microwave thoroughly after you've cleaned it with bleach, your food will taste of it. Another good reason? Some manufacturers advise that the bleach makes any plastic components within the microwave brittle over time.

A woman opening or closing a white microwave oven with a white dinner plate in hand

(Image credit: Getty images)

How to maintain a clean microwave

  • Daily wipe downs: In order to make it easier to clean your microwave next time wipe the inside of your microwave every day, depending on how often you use it.
  • Treat spills immediately: Try and remove any splattered food as quickly as possible, it’s easier to remove when the food is warm and yet to harden.
  • Anti-splash plate cover: Cover your food before cooking using something like an anti-splash plate cover, available from Amazon (opens in new tab).

A Russell Hobbs branded microwave on kitchen worksurface with glass food containers

(Image credit: Russell Hobbs)

Your essential microwave cleaning kit

Shop Heinz All-Natural Distilled White Vinegar (opens in new tab)- White Vinegar for Cleaning, Pickling, and Cooking, 1.32 Gallons | $14.99 from Amazon

A must for natural cleaning around the kitchen and beyond.

Shop Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, 1 lb. | From Amazon (opens in new tab)

Another hero product in the world of natural cleaning.


What cleaning products can you use in a microwave?

'The combination microwave is, without doubt, the Swiss army knife of home appliances, perfect for everything from reheating a hot beverage or snack, to preparing a fresh roast dinner for you and your family,' says Thomson.

'But that versatility can mean that your slimline microwave needs a little tender loving care from time to time. It’s a busy home appliance and like any often-used appliance, keeping it clean can sometimes seem like a challenge.'

'No matter how careful you are, food will invariably spill, bubble, and splatter the inside of your microwave. If you wipe it away straight away, then all is good. However, few of us have the time to do that, and if you are halfway through cooking a fresh, healthy meal it just isn’t practical. So the chances are that the inside of your combination microwave will benefit from regular cleaning, but with what exactly?'

'Before you reach for one of the multitudes of harsh and often abrasive chemical cleaners, it is worth bearing one or two things in mind; firstly and very conveniently, the Panasonic range of slimline microwaves all have sleek stainless steel interiors.'

'That means something very important; cleaning them is a lot easier. So leave those harsh, foul-smelling, and often irritating cleaning products on the supermarket shelf, because keeping your combination microwave clean, with simple, natural products is an easy and far more sustainable possibility, one which is better for you, better for the environment, and much better for your home appliances.'

Microwave cleaning tips from cleanfluencers

'The Microwave is one of those kitchen appliances many of us put off cleaning,' says Lynsey Crombie, aka Lyndsey Queen of Clean (opens in new tab).

'It's one of those items that is out of sight out of mind and as long as the outside of the appliance is clean the inside can wait. Inside the microwave, there can be food splatters and food spillages and often a nasty unclean smell.'

'The microwave can also be an awkward appliance to clean that you need to get the plate out and get your arm right in to reach the sides and the ceiling of the appliance.  Food can often be stuck so after a little wiping many people will just give up.'

Sophie Hinchcliffe, aka Mrs. Hinch (opens in new tab) offers more advice on how to protect your microwave from getting dirty. in the first place. Very clever indeed. She says:

'My oven liners, work very well when it's a microwave. Because any sort of splattering that you get from most microwaves, to be fair, go straight on my oven liner. And I just take this out and wash this. Brilliant.'

Christina joined the Real Homes team as a digital writer in June 2021. Prior to this she worked on Good Home magazine and events. She lived closed to Epping Forest and is spoiled for choice with lush green spaces, but loves her own English garden that adjoins her ground-floor maisonette, complete with a floral melange of roses, lavender, jasmine and an apple tree.


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